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Home bar essentials: everything you need from spirits to bar tools

For a festive and convivial evening, there is nothing like having a bar station at home where everyone can let the mixologist in them loose!

But what are the essential spirits, tools and ingredients you need in order to make a wide variety of cocktails?

We went to Alambika, a boutique specialized in mixology accessories and ingredients, to find out what essentials you need to have for a perfect home bar.

Home bar essentials

The good news is that you don’t have to raid the liquor store or spend a fortune to set up a home bar where everyone can enjoy a drink!


Home bar essentials


Essential spirits and liquors to have

Champagne glass
Photo credit: Ariane Simard-Picard

The central element of any home bar is obviously the alcohol.

As Manuel Perrier, head of cocktail training and development at Alambika, explains, the key is to have at least one white and one dark spirit, ideally all four:

White spirits: vodka, gin
Dark spirits: rhum, whisky

Additional spirits can also be offered, such as vermouth or orange liqueur (Triple Sec or Grand Marnier).

But that’s not necessary,” says Manuel Perrier, “because we’ll be playing with syrups* and bitters* to get a wider range of flavors.

To keep costs down, you can also buy the basic spirits in large sizes and supplement with smaller bottles for the other spirits.

You’ll only need to add a few bottles of wine (red and white), sparkling wine and beer.

Syrups and juices

Wall of bitters and syrup at Alambika
Photo credit: Ariane Simard-Picard

Instead of buying several fruit juices or flavored waters, it’s easier and more versatile to buy syrups and aromatic bitters.

For example, instead of having a sparkling water with lemon or an orange juice, we can simply have an orange syrup*, a lemon syrup and a bottle of water that we will flavour (or not) according to our needs. A ginger syrup* is also a great addition to a home bar.

Another advantage, in addition to not having endless quantities of bottles, is that bitters and syrups last a long time and do not take up space in the refrigerator.

As for the bitters, the most famous is the Angostura* but there is a wide variety of aromas: salty, lavender, chocolate, cucumber, orange*, etc.

And good to know, bitters can also be used in cooking, for example in dressings or sauces.

Where can you fin syrups and bitters?

You can find the most common bitters and syrups in grocery stores but there is a wider selection available online on Amazon* for example or in specialty stores where you can also taste the products before making your choice.

For a home bar, we will need :
  • a bitter such as Angostura*
  • an orange bitter
  • syrups *: simple syrup, lemon or orange syrups, fruit, orgeat, grenadine, etc.
  • sparkling water
  • a tonic water

Bar tools and accessories

Strainers and jigger
Photo credit: Ariane Simard-Picard

Accessories and tools are essential for making cocktails. Here are the essentials to get:

A shaker : Choose a 3-piece shaker*, which is easier to use and preferably made of metal rather than glass or plastic.

Mixing glass: A mixing glass* is perfect for making cocktails such as old-fashioned. It also allows you to see the preparation and taste it more easily.

A jigger : Choose a multilevel jigger*. While dual jiggers may seem convenient, most of the time they end up messing up the bar station when using both sides.

A mixing spoon: For this tool, don’t be afraid to choose a long one. There are different models of spoons*, some with accessories at the end of the handle like a fork or a pestle.

A strainer: The strainer* is used to filter out ice chunks, herbs and small debris when pouring the cocktail into the glass.

A bottle opener : to open wine bottles.

An ice bucket*: to keep certain drinks cool during the evening.

Other accessories can also be used such as a juicer, a zester, a pestle or tongs to pick up certain ingredients without using your fingers.


Bar tools and accessories


Glassware

Cocktails in different glasses
Photo credit: Ariane Simard-Picard

To be able to cover several options, there is no need to take out all the glassware.
We recommend:

Lowball glasses : they are perfect for spirits on the rocks or short cocktails such as old-fashioned or gin and tonics. They can also be used as water glasses.

Wine glasses: we recommend choosing glasses that are not too big and that will be suitable for bubbles, white wine, red wine and certain cocktails like the spritz.

You can also add:
Cocktail glasses: like the elegant Nick and Nora* glasses for martinis, cosmos and other cocktails without ice.

The long glass (highball): to serve juices, water and long cocktails such as mojitos and rum and coke.


Glassware


Fresh ingredients

Fresh ingredients aren’t essential for your home bar, but they do add an extra dimension to cocktails. For example, you can have:

  • Fresh herbs : basil, mint, rosemary or thyme branches, etc.
  • Cucumber slices
  • Lemon, lime or orange wedges, fresh or dehydrated*.
  • Green olives
  • Cocktail cherries*

The ice

corut glass
Photo credit: Ariane Simard-Picard

Ice is one of the most important elements of cocktails. Do not skimp on quantities, because you do not want to be out of ice during the evening.

The more ice there is, the longer the cocktail stays cold and the slower the ice melts.

Also, make the ice cubes as large as possible, using special ice cubes trays.

How to get perfect ice cubes? Take water that comes out of the kettle, because as it reaches the boiling point, the oxygenation of the water decreases, resulting in a denser ice that melts more slowly.

More tips

For a trendy home bar, you can use a small piece of furniture with wheels (bar cart) or simply install a small table in the corner of a room or use a part of the kitchen counter.

Make sure that all the ingredients are easily accessible.

Before the party, make sure that all drinks that need to be cold have been put in the refrigerator. And only take them out of the fridge when the guests start to arrive.

For a bit of inspiration, you can also prepare cocktail recipe cards and pace them near the bar.

Cocktail recipes

Old-fashioned glass revisited with maple
Old-fashioned with maple syrup
Photo credit: Ariane Simard-Picard

Now that you have all the home bar essentials, it’s time to create cocktails!

Here are some of our favorite cocktail recipes:

Home bar accessories
Photo credit: Ariane Simard-Picard

Checklist: Home Bar Essentials

Spirits and liquors

White spirits:

- Vodka

- Gin

Dark spirits:

- Rhum brun

- Whisky

Other options:

- Red or white wine

- Sparkling wine

- Beer

- Orange liquor such as Grand Marnier or Triple Sec (optional)

- Vermouth (optional)

Syrups and juices

- A bitter such as Angostura

- An orange bitter

- A lemon syrup

- Sparkling water

- Tonic water

- Provide 1 or 2 additional flavored syrups or fruit juices

Bar tools and accessories

- A mixing glass

- A shaker

- A jigger

- A mixing spoon

- A cocktail strainer

- Bottle opener

- An ice bucket

- A zester, a pestle and a citrus juicer

Glassware

Fresh ingredients (optional)

- Fresh herbs : basil, mint, rosemary branches, thyme branches, etc.

- Cucumber slices

- Orange or lemon wedges

- Green olives

- Cherries

Other

- Ice cubes

- Cocktail recipes

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